We were forewarned long ago that the release of Scholastic's (NASDAQ:SCHL) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last June would create difficult sales comparisons for booksellers this time around. First, Borders (NYSE:BGP) confirmed the prediction by announcing that sales managed to rise only 2.4% for the second quarter, with declining comps at both Borders Superstores and Waldenbooks. Strike one. Books-A-Million (NASDAQ:BAMM) followed with flat same-store sales and revenues that trudged fractionally higher. Strike two.

Industry leader Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) finally got its turn at bat today, calmly stepped to the plate, and avoided the strikeout. The hit may have been only a single, but a 5% jump in bookstore revenues to $961.3 million and a 1.4% rise in comps still look pretty good in the scorebook.

Consolidated earnings fell to $8.9 million, or $0.12, from $0.20 the year before on sales that climbed 12.7% to $1.45 billion. However, there was a $14.6 million expense stemming from the early retirement of debt. After backing out this $0.12 charge, earnings rose sharply to $0.24, easily topping the $0.15 estimate as well as the company's internal $0.12-to-$0.17 outlook.

As with rivals, Barnes & Noble reported that the quarter was largely salvaged by brisk sales of political titles, particularly former President Clinton's autobiography, My Life. Those memoirs, though, weren't enough to keep the mall-based chains afloat. Borders reported that comps at its Waldenbooks stores dropped 7.3%, and Barnes & Noble's B. Dalton units suffered a similar decline of 6.8%.

Barnesandnoble.com, whose short-lived run as a separate entity ended in May, continues to struggle against Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). Online sales slipped 6% to $84.5 million, though the previous quarter's $9.8 million loss was pared to $7.6 million. The firm's 63% stake in GameStop (NYSE:GME) continues to pay off, contributing $4.6 million ($0.07) to Barnes & Noble's bottom line. Jeff Hwang, though, recently questioned whether growth at the nation's largest video-game retailer is sustainable.

Earlier in the week, Borders and Books-A-Million lifted full-year earnings guidance, and Barnes & Noble followed with one of its own. Management is now forecasting a $2.34-to-$2.42 range, about 15 cents above previous guidance, and 23% to 27% above last year's earnings on a pro-forma basis. For the supposedly stodgy book business, growth rates like that merit extra consideration.

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Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter feels right at home in a bookstore but owns none of the companies mentioned.